Believe it or not, Gopher basketball gets their season started tonight! No, it isn’t an actual game. But the Gophers are facing Minnesota-Duluth in a formal exhibition game on with their first regular season game just 5 days away.
After tonight’s exhibition game we will obviously know more about the starting lineup and rotation, but ahead of the season I wanted to share my thoughts on what we can expect on the floor this season and the team’s depth.
Overall this is a much deeper team than we have seen in a while. Currently this team have 4 reliable contributors off the bench and 5 when Eric Curry is healthy. A 10 man rotation of reliable players is not anything we’ve seen in Pitino’s tenure. A deep rotation with 2 guys in the starting lineup who are 1st Team All-Big Ten caliber. Let’s take a look at the rotation.
PG - Isaiah Washington - now a sophomore and evolving as a leader on the team. But reading Pitino in this offeseason, especially over the last few weeks, it seems as though Washington is not yet where Pitino wants him. In the scrimmage against Creighton, Washington did not start and instead freshman SG, Gabe Kalscheur started in the backcourt. Washington still played 24 minutes and I suspect this was a message sent to the young point guard. He is the only guard with real point guard skills who is eligible to play and he’ll be an integral part of this team. That integral-ness may be frustrating at times, but he’ll be he there. I suspect you’ll see Washington playing 26-30 min per night.
SG - Dupree McBrayer - now a senior and McBrayer is going to be playing an awful lot. McBrayer played nearly 29 min per game last season and I’d bet he’ll be right around that 29-30 min area again. He can play a little bit of point if needed and he can slide over to the other wing as well. The Gophers will need him healthy and contributing if they plan on a successful season.
SF - Amir Coffey - If healthy, Coffey may very well end up our best player. He was on his way to a potential All-Big Ten season last year before missing basically the second half of the season. He’ll be on the floor all the time, but for a rest per half and possibly foul trouble.
PF - Jordan Murphy - While Coffey “might” be our best player, Murphy “has” been. The senior is a double-double stud and, like Coffey, he’ll play every minute possible. First team All-Big Ten is reasonable for Murphy, especially if the Gophers have a successful season as a team.
C - Daniel Oturu - With the loss of Eric Curry for a month or two, Oturu becomes a critical piece to the Gopher starting lineup. The freshman would have been a key member of the frontcourt rotation, but now his minutes will have to increase from what was expected. He came off the bench, behind Curry, in the scrimmage and played 15 minutes. That will have to jump to 25 immediately. Center is thin,
C/PF - Eric Curry - Beginning the season injured after missing all of last year with torn CLs is not encouraging for Curry. But he is expected to be out 4-6 weeks and when healthy will either be your starting center or very likely your first player off the bench.
I suspect that you will have 4 guys getting significant minutes off the bench. 5 if you include a healthy Curry and you could argue that Stockman will enough minutes to be considered “significant.” But I’m going with these 4 guys as your primary bench contributors.
SG - Gabe Kalscheur - Having been labeled a “pleasant surprise” and getting one of the starting spots in the Creighton scrimmage, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Kalsheur as the first guard off the bench.
F - Michael Hurt - It may depend on the opponent and foul situation of the backcourt, but Michael Hurt is a guy who may play 10 minutes one night and 20 the next. In his most recent blog entry, Pitino praised Hurt’s shot making and competitiveness on the floor. If he could bring better shooting and some toughness, Hurt would be a real asset off the bench.
SG - Brock Stull - At one point I was anticipating the Stull would be the first guard off the bench. He gives this team an added shooter and he, more than any of the rest of our bench guys, can play some point. Pitino seems to be indicating that there is a lengthier adjustment period for Stull. He will play and he will be a guy who sees his minutes increase throughout the season, in my opinion. His shooting ability is going to be a really nice boost to this offense.
F - Jarvis Omersa - Quite the opposite here as what I wrote about Stull. Omersa is very athletic and raw, which I assumed would translate to around 6-10 minutes per game as he developed. That may still be a pretty accurate projection, but I think he’ll be more of a factor than I anticipated. Especially with Curry missing the next couple months, Omersa will likely be thrust into some PF minutes in the non-conference season.
C - Matz Stockman - I could be totally wrong here, but I just don’t think Stockman is going to play that much. We will see him every game, but I anticiapte it will be very similar to what we got from Bakary Konate last year. If there are no foul issues, Stockman will play about 2-4 minutes each half to give guys rest. But they will be short stints. I could be wrong and he could be a 16 min per game guy, but I’m not expecting it.
- PG - Marcus Carr - Likely will have to sit out the season due to transfer rules. This is being appealed and the team is still awaiting official word. If he’s allowed to play, he would likely be the first guy off the bench or even your starting point guard.
- G - Payton Willis - Also sitting due to transferring in from Vandy. Willis will not play this year.
- G - Brady Rudrud - walk-on, will be seen in blowouts.
- G - Hunt Conroy - walk-on, will be seen in blowouts.